Hold BDS’ers Accountable: Free Speech Never Came Free

When discussing combating the BDS movement we have to accept certain cultural norms about college campuses which make can both aidĀ  and detract from effective strategies. I am not a lawyer, but I am recommending developing new legal strategies to combat BDS within these well known principles about college campus and recommended remedies.

  1. Most colleges are not-for-profit educational institutions and as such, are subject to local, state and federal laws use of funds (especially with allocated local, state and federal funds and many time with privately donated funds) and there are penalties for violating them. Basically there are written laws, institutional charters and policies and institutional codes that provide sanctions for violating these codes either willfully or unwittingly.
  2. Colleges and Universities regard themselves as constitutionally protected market places of freedom of expression and ideas. But by the same token, there are local, state and federal codes as well as institutional guidelines that provide rules, regulations and sanctions for what are acceptable and unacceptable parameters for this behavior by students, faculty and administrators which if violated could result in sanctions.
  3. Being accepted to be an administrator, faculty member or student at any institution is a privilege and not a right and there are sanctionable codes of conduct for all who study, teach and administrate at college campus with institutional codes, which if breached by a member of the privileged institutional community could result in sanctions, even dismissal.
  4. Most institutions have codes of conduct which reflect sanctions for violating issues of moral turpitude and laws of the local, state and federal communities for students, faculty and administers. Many have codes that state putting the reputation of the institution at stake or in jeopardy is sufficient grounds for dismissal or that engaging in any act of discrimination on the basis of religion, race or national origin are grounds for sanctions.

Yet without even referring to the discriminatory, intimidating and genocidal calls for BDS, we all know the history of students, faculty and administrators turning a blind eye to these truths and realities by ignoring many incidents of sexual assault, under-aged drinking, inappropriate fraternization between faculty and students, drug usage and other violations of societal norms, morals and laws with either no sanctions or minimal sanctions at best. Once an a while if there is the possibility of litigation either civil or criminal, more punitive action is taken or if the folks in Campus Relations think the institution’s reputation could be harmed are there more definitive actions where the punishment fits the crime. If any action is taken, campus tribunals or faculty committees meet and deliberate often without significant conclusive results and life goes on.

So this takes us to the increasing incidents of BDS on campus. We must be very clear what the BDS Movement is and isn’t. BDS as articulated and practiced in recent years is not an intellectual or even political attempt to bring peace to a trouble region by criticizing a government considered occupying conquered territory after being attacked and then oppressing it’s inhabitants, it’s an attempt to delegitimize, destroy and remove Jews fromĀ  the state that was created by international law as their national sovereign state. The slogan of the BDS movement is not let’s have people with Israel or bring justice for Palestinians, it’s “From the river to the sea, Palestine will soon be free!” It is a genocidal call (backed by terrorist attacks on civilians) to rid all of Israel (from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, in other words all of sovereign Israel) of Jews and Israel. It is a genocidal slogan at worse and certainly a statement of intended apartheid if we are being diplomatic. Clearly this movement is based on hate, discrimination, revisionist history and results in violations of so many local, state, federal and institutional codes, they are too numerous to mention.

Frequently these calls are uncivil, menacing, intimidating and hateful. Often they are disruptive, uncontrolled and designed to instigate and incite. Frequently the call for physical harm to Jews in general either through direct threats or invoking references to the Holocaust, gassing and “finishing the job.” Antisemitic canards are invoked and yet, with all this the BDS’ers are hiding behind thinly veiled expressions of freedom of speech, freedom of expression and a right to redress grievances.

What is allegedly legitimate political protests manifests itself as intimidation of Jewish faculty, students and even administrators who have to go about their work, studies and administrating frequently feeling persecuted and hostility within the institution simply for being Jewish. Cases are emerging where students are under-performing as an effect of this, transferring to other institutions because of hostile environment or suffering emotional distress affecting their lives, studies and relationships.

Faculty members who speak out are often brought in by senior peers, department chairs, deans and others to be challenged for speaking out against these acts and told that they are either to “be scholars or Israel advocates, but not both,” while in other faculty suites faculty are using their resources, titles and institutional facilities to promote BDS in their institution, academic associations and other professional venues.

Administrators who protest such behaviors are considered problematic and are dealt with as such.

So we are left where standards exist, are violated and there are few, if any sanctions. What do do???

Academics, especially lower ranking, and students typically feel powerless to do anything about this and so they suffer in silence or transfer and so that only emboldens the BDS’ers who remain.

I am proposing legal suits, charges and challenges to the BDS’ers to make them be held accountable for the real violations of all the codes and laws they may be violating with these actions on campus and in the community.

We need funders, lawyers and litigants to step up the plate and file charges and suits that laws and codes are being broken that it will cost BDS’ers much more in either criminal, civil or institutional courts to practice their discrimination, hatred and calls for genocide.

We have learned in the UK that when Michcon lawyer Anthony Julius threatened to sue the union of the university teachers (faculty) for acts of discrimination under the UK’s anti discrimination laws for discriminating on the basis if national origin, the several year faculty preoccupation with boycotting Israel faculty pretty much ended as a formal activity of the union, not wanting to waste resource in court defending itself.

We have learned from Bronner et.al vs. the American Studies Association that even though the case was dismissed for technical reasons, the reactions of academic associations adopting boycott resolutions which are antithetical to their tax exempt charters and laws which are to promote academic disciplines and not to engage in political reprisals has dropped significantly as scarce resources of the ASA were spent on defending itself from the actions of senior leaders in the field who felt the Association’s stated purpose and resource were being hijacked illegally for political purpose.

There must be plenty of trial cases of students finding themselves in debilitating quandaries either in the classroom where professors revise history to blame Jews problematic issues from so many interdisciplinary intersectional perspectives. There are plenty of documented cases where students are threatened with eviction notices, antisemitic graffiti and slurs which violate codes of conduct and where investigations rarely are taken seriously within the university operations.

The fact of the matter is that just as civil right lawyers looked for and found adequate cases to make new laws or get old old laws enforced, so no should lawyers, students and faculty be looking for each other to find cases to hit the pocket books of the student groups demanding BDS and students status in the college and universities who preach such hate. Let the issues be decided with real lawyers in real costs and let the BDS community that no longer is this freedom of expression going to come without a healthy price to pay…the price of being challenged and held accountable. It is time to go on the offensive!

About the Author
Retired College Professor (Walden University and Penn State University), President Emeritus and Co-Founder Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. Professional and Community Leader. Writer, Blogger, Academic Activist. Residing in Harrisburg Pennsylvania.
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